Feelings are my jam.
To put a finer point on it, learning how to feel feelings and then react with intention is a superpower.
This skill has changed my life, and it’s one that I hope to teach to millions of people.
Coming of age in the 90s, the common theme of self-improvement material was that feelings meant something.
“How do you feel about that?” or “How are you feeling?” or “Why do you feel that way?” were common therapist questions, in my experience.
The lessons I got from all of these questions about feelings and their source was:
- Feelings are powerful indicators of very serious and important things.
- Feelings require a reason to exist.
- Knowing what I’m feeling and labeling it is essential to mental health.
- Feelings are indicators about actions I should take.
- Feeling good is preferred.
Um. No, I don’t believe this way anymore.
Let me share my updated learnings with you:
- Feelings indicate thinking, whether in our conscious awareness or more subconscious.
- Feelings exist the way blood pumps. They exist because that’s how the system works.
- Feelings are neutral, neither bad nor good. Feeling “bad” is nothing to worry about. Feeling “good” is not a preferred state.
- Feelings exist because our minds think, and that thinking is not always entirely “logical” or cohesive.
- Knowing what you’re feeling at any minute is informative but not essential.
I think our society has pivoted to a weird, unhealthy emphasis on positivity.
People want to work with a coach or a therapist to “feel better.”
I can help you with your feelings.
But it doesn’t mean you’ll end up feeling more good, more of the time.
Ah, snap! So, what’s the point, then?
Let’s start with feelings as indicators.
Feelings demonstrate a biological manifestation that your mind is having a reaction to stimulus.
Let’s take the feeling “sad,” for example. I might feel sad because someone said my article sucks and I thought, “Oh, I did a bad job!” Then, someone might say how much they loved the article, and I might feel elated because I think, “I helped someone – yeah!”
Feelings merely indicate the current state of my thinking. I can decide from a neutral place whether any action is required.
Feelings are often practiced. We develop habits of generating certain feelings.
One person said that depression is the “noun state” representing a practiced set of “verb states” (aka, behaviors). That blew my mind because it really resonated with my decades long experience with attempting to “fix” depression!
The more I thought depressed thoughts and felt “depressed” the more it seemed my state and I saw myself as a “depressed” person. And, of course, if feelings are serious and tell me what to do, I must do something to make the feeling go away. For me these days, a little extra self care and allowing the feeling without pushing so hard to make “the depression” go away does wonders for how I live with times when my thinking and feeling are labeled “depressed.” **
I find it curious or interesting to know my feelings.
That said, I no longer take them all that seriously.
Instead of saying “I feel curious,” I am more likely to say, “My thinking has me feeling curious right now!”
That depersonalizes the experience and reminds me that both thinking and feeling shift like the tides. I don’t need to stand at the edge of the ocean and blow really hard to make the tide go out.
Equally, I don’t need to make an effort to shift my feeling. I merely decide what to do next and get on with it.
So, I encourage you to feel your feelings.
But then react with intention, from a decision about what would make your next experience worth living.
Then do it.
So much easier than dissecting your feelings and trying to change them all the livelong day, yes?
** Caveat: This is my personal experience, not medical advice on the treatment of depression or any other physical concern.
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